It's Time Campaign February 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding support for children who have been abused and the related 'It's Time' campaign by the NSPCC.

This is a very serious issue and I know that a recent survey conducted by the NSPCC found that nine in ten professionals feel mental health services for abused children are inadequate, and more than three quarters say it has got more difficult in the last five years to access therapy. I found this very concerning as it is appalling that some of the most vulnerable and traumatised children in the country cannot access the support they need. I believe that children who need support are waiting too long for help and thresholds for support are too high. 

I am alarmed that the number of children turning up at A&E because of mental health problems has almost doubled in recent years and that the Government have broken their promise on children's mental health funding this year.

I know that the NSPCC is currently calling for more relevant data to be collected on the number of children who have been abused and in need of these services. I am aware that the Government has asked statisticians to look at different ways of assessing the data to address the issue. I will follow this development closely. Generally, the Government cannot claim to be meeting the mental health needs of children and young people unless we understand the scale of the challenge. The current system of support for children who are suffering from the effects of abuse is clearly insufficient, and I sincerely hope that the Government takes prompt action to address this issue.

While we clearly need better systems of mental health care for abused children, the Government also needs to drastically improve its efforts to prevent this kind of abuse in the first place.  Crime statistics published in January show the Government is not doing nearly enough to prevent child sex abuse. The figures showed recorded incidents of sexual grooming of children increased by 79 per cent year-on-year and of the 36 per cent rise in recorded sexual offences, 44 per cent were found to be against children. The approach the Government is taking isn't working, and more and more children are suffering the consequences. The root causes need to be dealt with, rather than just dealing with the crime once it has occurred, and appropriate, timely support given to children affected.

That is why 26 years ago, after a horrendous child sexual abuse case came to light in our area, I raised with the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the need for a national institute to figure out the best ways to prevent child abuse. Finally, in June 2015, the Government agreed to set one up, although the Institute is not yet up and running. Prevention is about sparing the next generation of children.

Creating a National Institute for the Study and Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse is the most important contribution Parliament and Government can make. A “What Works” institution will pull together the best practise and strongest evidence to stop abusers before they start and make available the best therapies in the world to help restore victims.

On 2nd June 2015, I spoke about this vital issue in Parliament. You can read or watch the debate here:

For too long children have not been listened to when they called for help and it is vital that we have an independent, robust inquiry that gets to the bottom of how children have been let by down.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views. No child should be denied the help or support they need and I will continue to support the work of my Frontbench colleagues in pressing the Government to take action to tackle this growing problem.